We Can Change Our Future!
In 2016, the documentary We the People: The Market Basket Effect was released. It told the story of 25,000 employees and 2 million customers of a 71-store New England grocery chain that went on strike for 6 weeks, making national news - to return their ousted CEO - which was highly unusual.
Organized labor, unions and people power were at an all-time low then, gutted by wealth and power. People had all but given up hope of being treated well by employers, or being able to effect change. Most were living paycheck-to-paycheck, without savings, indentured servants to debt and employers. People were sadly used to inadequate pay, little voice or power, being treated poorly by employers. Obscene income and wealth disparity were a defining attribute of U.S. society. The 1% dominated.
This grocery store chain had been started by Greek immigrants and built on values and serving people. Its CEO instilled in employees that all were equal and important. It paid employees well, lifting lives, empowering them to grow. It kept prices low, enabling a beleaguered public to afford to be able to eat. It instilled on all the belief that we are in this together, if we stick together and stick to shared values.
When a shareholder and board coup ousted its popular president, to convert the chain to maximizing profits for owners and possible sale of the business to greedy corporate monsters, the community of workers and customers rose, shut down the stores for 6 weeks in protest, bringing it to the brink of ruin. They held their ground in solidarity, facing threats with courage. They won, restoring their president, and, returning to work, laboring hard to recover from the economic harms the business had suffered.
This effort reminded people that things don’t have to be the way they are, heartless and ugly and mean. People can develop and exert power and change things. When we are together, we are strong and able. This story helped others wake up, take heart, find courage and organize and take action to make change. It demonstrated the power of shared values, intentions and community. It inspired people movingly, triggering a series of 2020s worker, consumer and citizen activism in the U.S. and abroad.
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